Note: The Skinny blog is written by Rick Smith, editor and co-founder of Local Tech Wire and business editor of

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – Eighty-five nations are celebrating between Nov. 16-22, and Matthew Szulik, chairman of Red Hat, says now is the best time to launch your own business.

Similar messages are coming from:

Ping Fu, the co-founder and CEO of Geomagic software in the Triangle, who will be telling her story

Vivek Wadhwa, an RTP entrepreneur turned academic who is churning out research that is having a global impact on the understanding of entrepreneurs as well as the importance of immigrants to the U.S. economy. He also writes about the importance of entrepreneurship at

Back to Szulik, who helped turn Raleigh-based Red Hat into a Linux powerhouse and a publicly traded company on Nasdaq then the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: RHT). He told students at Appalachian State last week to take the risk of a new venture.

“Why shouldn’t you start a company? What’s the worst thing that can happen, fail?” he asked students at an Entrepreneur Summit on the campus in Boone.

“This is the greatest opportunity that you have ever been given,” Szulik said. “You are living in the most advanced country in the world that’s going to allow you to start something, to be a business creator, to leverage the talent and the relationships that you have spent four years cultivating. You don’t get a second chance, so why not seize it.”

Szulik, in remarks reported by Appalachian’s news service, described Red Hat as a firm that “grew from nothing in the tobacco fields of North Carolina.” He stressed that it “was built on the backs of 21-, 22- and 23-year old kids and today is an S&P 500 company.”

It’s been a decade since Red Hat went public in the “dot com” boom and shares soared to $300. But unlike many of the dot com one-hit wonders, Red Hat is still around and growing.

Those Appalachian students heard words of advice from an entrepreneur (who once worked for Wadhwa, by the way, at Relativity software) who walks the talk.

Ping Fu has earned her entrepreneur accolades as well, having been imprisoned and then sent by communists in China to live in the U.S. with virtually nothing but her own wits and intelligence. Fu will share “The Story of an Entrepreneur” at UNC on Thursday (19th) at 5:30 p.m. at the Maurice J. Koury Auditorium in the Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The 2005 Inc. magazine Entrepreneur of the Year, Fu will share her remarkable rags-to-riches story as part of the Carolina Entrepreneurial Initiative. For other activities,

Vivek, meanwhile, is speaking at Stanford today on a touchy subject: “Facts and Myths in the Globalization Debate: How Our National Policies are often Misguided and How the United States Can Continue to Keep Its Global Edge.”

One shudders to think what the United States would be like today without entrepreneurs who weren’t afraid to risk all.

Well, come to think of it, our country as we know it wouldn’t exist at all.

Happy Entrepreneurship Week.

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